I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to catch the tail end of Alan Jones’s radio program this morning, where he went on a brief (although I’m sure not unusual) tirade against the idea of global warming, and especially the theory that global warming is caused by humans. Jones even went so far as to claim that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. I am not knowledgeable enough (nor do I really care enough) to argue over the validity of global warming, however, even removing the whole idea of global warming from the equation, can we really say that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant?

Everything and anything on this planet can be a pollutant if it is in sufficient quantities (I am using the dictionary.com definition of pollutant: “a waste material that contaminates air, soil, or water). Even things that are normally useful can be classified as pollutants. The best example I can give of this is animal manure. In certain situations (such as a family farm with only a few cows and horses etc.), animals will defecate in fields and slowly “walk” the manure into the soil; furthermore, many over the counter fertilizers are made up of either some or all, animal manure. The nutrients provided by manure are incredibly important ingredients in ensuring high produce yields, any produce yield at all, or even that some plants will grow at all. In other words, in certain situations manure is INCREDIBLY useful.

However, when manure is released in too large quantities it can become a pollutant. Some of the worst “spills” in history have nothing to do with chemicals or oil or any of the other well-known miscreants, they are spills of manure from factory farms. When too much manure is released at once it can poison fields, get into the water table and rivers etc. etc. Manure spills have been linked to the poisoning of livestock, the decimation of fish populations, and even human health concerns. And this is before we even discuss the disgusting smell that must emanate from 100,000 gallons of faeces being dumped near human population areas.

All of us know that everything on this planet requires balance: if you eat too much and exercise too little you will become fat, the killing of too many predators will result in population explosions in the prey, if too many people live in an area it becomes untenable etc. etc. etc. Too much of something is NEVER good, no matter what it is. Why would carbon dioxide be the one exemption to this rule? Why would carbon dioxide be the one thing that humans can release as much as they want without any repercussions? Forget global warming, just think about all the cars and planes and boats and other machines that are right now spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. How can that not be producing at least some side effect (good or ill)? In large enough quantities, everything on this planet is a pollutant. In large enough quantities, everything on this planet is bad. Even us. Even carbon.

Here are some links to articles concerning manure dumps:

http://thegazette.com/2011/07/22/manure-spill-likely-to-reach-iowa-river/

http://www.iowapolitics.com/index.iml?Article=219654

http://iowa.sierraclub.org/Manure%20Spills%20and%20Fish%20Kills.pdf

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/waste/nm1555.pdf